Newcastle United 3 Sheffield United 0
- David Coote
Newcastle United returned to Premier League action by recording their most convincing win of the season so far against a ten-man Sheffield United side.
Following a largely even first half, the pendulum swung the Magpies’ way early into the second, as the Blades’ John Egan was sent off for a second bookable offence before Allan Saint-Maximin opened the scoring after a defensive blunder.
It was almost all Newcastle after that. Matt Ritchie thumped in a second midway through the half to all but seal the victory, before Joelinton ended his long wait for a Premier League goal by applying the finishing touch to Miguel Almirón’s square.
It was a clinical showing from United, who now sit a healthy twelfth in the table with eight games of the campaign to go.
Sheffield United looked the sharper side early on, piecing together a couple of promising attacking moves and asking questions of the Magpies’ four-man backline. Martin Dúbravka remained largely untroubled, though, and it was Newcastle who carved out the first shooting chance of the game, as the Blades struggled to clear their lines following a corner from the right and Federico Fernández saw a low strike blocked. Two minutes later, Ritchie’s ambitious strike was palmed away by Dean Henderson in the visitors’ goal.
The Magpies ought to have taken the lead with their next attack. Saint-Maximin was the architect, creating a few yards of space for himself in his own half before picking out Almirón. The Paraguayan, in turn, slipped the ball through for Joelinton, who was left with a virtually clean run on goal. However, after shaping up to shoot, the frontman’s foot connected more with the ground than the ball, and Henderson was left with a simple take.
That was as good as it got for either side before the interval. Jonjo Shelvey did see a piledriver blocked for United, though, while Billy Sharp and Egan both threatened for the Blades – the former with a fizzing volley at the Gallowgate End which narrowly cleared Dúbravka’s crossbar.
The latter, meanwhile, lasted just five minutes of the second half before being dismissed. Joelinton looked set to bear down on goal for a second time after a show of strength on the edge of the centre circle, only for Egan to claw him back. Off he went, and it took little time for the Magpies to make their numerical advantage count. Again, they were given a helping hand by the Blades, though, as Enda Stevens ended up in a heap trying to cut out a straightforward centre from Ritchie and Saint-Maximin took full advantage to rifle the ball past Henderson – who perhaps could have done better.
The Blades passed up a fine chance to equalise as Sharp failed to apply the finishing touch to the move he started himself. The veteran striker played a superb cross-field pass to George Baldock and had appeared to make his run into the 18-yard box in perfect time to convert the wing back’s enticing delivery, only to plant a tame headed effort wide of the near post. With that, his side’s chances of salvaging anything went up in smoke.
Almirón ought to have doubled Newcastle’s advantage just a minute later, firing straight at Henderson from Saint-Maximin’s cutback after another marauding run by the Frenchman. It wasn’t long before the Blades’ stopper was picking the ball out of his net again, though, the England hopeful again beaten at his near post – this time by a raking Ritchie strike from 18 yards.
And the icing on the cake for United came after 78 minutes, as Joelinton ended a near ten-month wait for a top-flight goal by side-footing home Almirón’s square.